For 17 years, Ginew School in Roseau River Anishinabe First
Nation has reached out to neighbouring communities, inviting students from
other schools to learn about the culture and people of the First Nation.
Pearl Henry, Ginew School guidance counsellor for 23 years
now, has been there from the beginning.
“The Gathering of Friends is where we share our culture and
traditions with any guests that come to see us,” says Henry. “We try to break
down barriers with neighbouring towns and break down stereotypes. Try to make
connections with people that live close to our community.” Indeed, just a look
at the many workshops offered gives one a sense of the efforts and scope of the
event: Bannock and Fish Fry, Anishinaabe Life, Residential Schools,
Planetarium, Leather Press and Crafts, Sweat Lodge, Moccasin Games, Hunting and
Trapping, Dancer Regalia, Treaties, Names of People & Places, Ogichidaa,
Stick Games, Ojibwe Language, and Drum Making.
There is simply too
much for one person to take in during the single-day event. Henry explained
that a schedule is made up, and students from the participating schools attend
the workshops, each lasting less than a half hour.
Walking into a courtyard, the smells of fish and frying bannock greet you. Nicole
Atkinson talks to an assembled group of visiting students about how she
prepares bannock. She tells students she makes bannock the way her kookum did,
and then just grabs ingredients and starts mixing it.
Atkinson said she used to work at the school but is busy
raising her grandchildren at the moment. However, she loves to cook and give
“I was not the one who gave myself that name,” said a smiling
Atkinson. “Someone from here [Roseau River] gave me that name, Bannock Queen,
and it just kind of stuck.”
The Dancer Regalia
workshop included lessons in the types of dance one might see at a local
Powwow. Workshop leaders shared how referring to dance regalia as “costumes” is
considered an insult.
Rockford McKay, MFNSS Science Facilitator, was there with
his inflatable planetarium to give the students a taste of Anishinaabe
McKay always credits MFNERC’s Wilfred Buck for laying the
foundations for the work done learning about Anishinaabe constellations and
collecting their related stories.
McKay said, for his part, he had brought along video of the
moon landing, which always piques students interest in science.
Since the formation of MFNSS, McKay works with schools in
the school system with the portable planetarium and science-related activities.
Buck still works with schools in MFNERC.
Jeff Albert, a Grade
5 teacher with École West Park School in Altona, said, “ This is my first time in Roseau River (Anishinabe First
Nation),” and “I love the fact the students get a chance to see Indigenous
culture and get to see first person
perspective on everything. We got to hear Anishinaabemowin spoken, and that’s
Albert said there were 48 students from his school taking
part in the Gathering of Friends.
After a provided lunch, the day ended with a demonstration
Powwow where the visiting students could see the various dances and regalia of
Henry said they don’t advertise the event or seek publicity
due to the high demand to participate from schools in the local area.
The day hadn’t even ended and Ginew School began getting inquiries
from schools wanting to attend the event next year.
By Trevor Greyeyes